The Westman Wolverines had a chance to gain a share of first place in the Manitoba Major Football League on Saturday, but they left the Vincent Massey high school field disappointed.
The Wolverines (2-2) turned the ball over eight times and broke down defensively as they fell 37-7 to the league-leading Fort Garry Lions (4-0).
"I think we beat ourselves more than they beat us," Westman quarterback Seth Hume said. "We shoot ourselves in our foot way too much. … You can’t win when you’re turning the ball over like that. It’s something we need to work on in practice."
The Wolverines dug themselves an early hole by giving up three touchdowns — including an impressive one-handed catch by Brody Sitar — to trail 20-0 midway through the second quarter.
They closed the gap with a two-yard touchdown pass from Hume to Tanner Boak, which Matt Waters converted. The Wolverines then had the ball on the Lions’ 20-yard line in the final minute of the second quarter, but were stuffed on a third-and-inches gamble.
The Lions took advantage of turnovers and penalty issues by the Wolverines in the second half to set up quarterback Christof Hasselfield for a one-yard plunge. He also found Caleb Mueller for a 60-yard touchdown strike. Mueller added a 32-yard field goal.
Westman’s defence struggled as well, giving up long runs up the middle, which forced safety Brendon Brydges to make touchdown-saving tackles.
However, Wolverines head coach Dave Stantial believes everything that went wrong on Saturday can easily be corrected.
"It’s the same thing we’ve been trying to preach to them all year long; just stop the penalties," he said. "We gave up a few penalties that put them close to the goal-line in the game and we had breakdowns on defence and it just comes down to practice. We have to make sure everybody shows up to practice and gets the work in that they need."
Hume completed 15 of 25 passes for 277 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, including one in the Lions’ end zone. Jordan Paraschuk hauled in four of those passes for 121 yards, while Jared Spearing caught five more for 71 for the Wolverines. Boak had three receptions for 35 yards, while James Johnson led the ground attack with 74 yards on 16 carries.
Adam McClelland had 6 1/2 tackles on defence for Westman, while Curtis Firman added four. Brad Kyle had an interception, with Mathew Meeches recording 1 1/2 sacks.
Stantial wasn’t too concerned about the three lost fumbles as they came in the fourth quarter with players trying a little too hard to make something happen, and because they haven’t fumbled much this season. He would have loved to tie the Lions for first in the league, but knows that the loss makes next Saturday’s game against the St. James Rods (1-1-1) in Winnipeg that much more important.
"We just practise hard and get ready for another road game," he said. "We have the Rods next week and hopefully go in and these guys will have the bad taste of this game in their mouth and head over to the Rods and try to do some damage there."